Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Nine

“Martin Luther King, Jr.,” read the boy at the head of the room. Although class had been in session for ten minutes; his audience yawned, fidgeted, dozed, or daydreamed.

Equally glassy-eyed, Wil blinked. Her eyes fixed on the white board behind the boy –Lucas? Most of her thoughts were miles away.

Lucas took the top paper of the pile he gripped and stuffed it, crinkling, to the back. He sighed and continued in a monotone, “Martin Luther King, Jr., original name Michael King, Jr., born January 15, 1929, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.—died April 4, 1968, Memphis, Tennessee…”

Wil’s head drooped. She longed for her book, nestled back home in her covers without her. She frowned in thought. No, she wished to be with her book in her bed.

“…Baptist minister and social activist who led the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968…”

In the pause he took to breathe, Mrs. Riles piped up. In unison, she and Lucas recited, “His leadership was fundamental to that movement’s success in ending the legal segregation of African Americans in the South and other parts of the United States…”

Their impromptu act awakened a few students. A few tittered, realizing what Mrs. R. was doing. The laughter, more than his teacher’s synchronized recital, caused Lucas to stop and look up. Mrs. R.’s expression when he did so caused him to swallow. Hard.

“Mr. Hampton.”

“Miss -Mrs. Riles?” he stuttered. His peers watched, now alert.

His interrogator and their mutual instructor appeared amused, like a python enjoying a joke. “Would you like to tell me how I was able to read your report, word-for-word, from my phone?”

The snake’s victim shook his head and dropped his eyes to his pages; which, in turn, he dropped to rest against his legs. One sneakered foot brushed the other, and back.

“I think you’d better sit down. We can talk some more about this after class.”

Lucas nodded and shuffled back to his seat.

“Right,” Mrs. R. said in a brighter tone. “So… who’s next?”


Continued from Ninety-Eight.
Keep reading to One Hundred.

All text about Martin Luther King, jr. obviously and intentionally swiped from The Encyclopedia Britannica.


©2019 Chelsea Owens

19 thoughts on “Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Nine

  1. Whew—caught red-handed. I can’t say I had this happen too often when I was teaching, but it did occur. The worst culprits were some of the parents who did everything for a student’s Science Fair project. They didn’t take into consideration that I had been looking at their child’s work all year and knew what he/she was capable of writing.

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  2. Thankfully we now have plagiarism checker programs that prevent this from occurring too often. And, you captured that mind numbing drone mode of listening to reports from the student view. Mine have to take notes or create a question for the speaker to keep minds from floating off into the clouds.

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  3. I grew up in classrooms without cell phones.
    Even my children had to wait in line at the pay phone to call me to pick them up from after school clubs.
    There will always be ‘cheaters’ and they will be caught. But it is curious that Wil was called out by the classroom speaker – for two days. Was it Friday already?
    Very curious indeed. 🙂

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    1. I keep wondering if I’m outdated to not have her have a cell phone. I’m torn between how I grew up, how much her family can afford, and whether this story ought to be a sort of timeless one.

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      1. While there is a convenience to electronic devices… even calculators… I think learning without them would be better for the student. And there should be certain restrictions in school. Like not allowing them to be used or on by students during the school day.

        I am not sure at what age students do have cell phones in school. I know my grandson had (rented through the school) a limited Ipad device since first or second grade.

        And now I see local commercials that because of lack of funds that physical education is being eliminated in most school systems. Some schools also lack home Eco (as I knew it) and even some of the arts.

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          1. When the electronic games first came out my parents wanted to gift my children them… I said ‘No’. The could get those games when they moved into their own places. Years later at least one of my children did thank me for not getting that time waster.

            I don’t know how I’d handle cell phones now for children. Good for safety. And there are programs where the parents can turn off the phone or device after limited times or when it is time for sleeping. I guess the cell phone depends on just how much access there is. Most cell phones are much more than just phones.

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      1. Ah…Some California schools actually go all year round to keep the buildings in use. But that means that some grades do not have the same vacation schedules – which for those families with more than one child in the system can be problematic.

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